Three takeaways from Benfica 3-3 Inter: Nerazzurri get thrilling comeback confidence boost as Joao Mario returns to haunt them

Salvaging a draw from three goals down, Inter thrilled in a 3-3 draw against Benfica but it was their former midfielder Joao Mario who earned the plaudits with a first half hattrick.

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Inter came from three goals down to snatch a stunning 3-3 draw against Benfica in Matchday 5 of the Champions League, having already secured qualification from Group D.

The Nerazzurri found themselves trailing to a Joao Mario hattrick but fought back after the interval through Davide Frattesi, Marko Arnautovic, and an Alexis Sanchez penalty.

After Benfica defender Antonio Silva was sent off, the Nerazzurri came within inches of completing a sensational turnaround but Nicolo Barella could only strike the woodwork in injury time.

Preparation for two huge Serie A clashes

Nestled between two crunch Serie A matches, against Juventus and Napoli respectively, the visit to Benfica was a distraction that Simone Inzaghi perhaps could have done without and it showed in his team selection.

Wholesale changes were made to the team that earned a 1-1 draw in the Derby d’Italia last weekend, with in-form strikers Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram given a well-earned rest. Given the squad depth available to Inzaghi and Benfica’s dreadful Champions League form, the Serie A leaders could afford to make so many changes ahead of a busy schedule.

Although it threatened to backfire spectacularly when 3-0 down at the interval, a huge fightback will do wonders for the team’s confidence going into the match against Napoli and the fact that Inter could, and perhaps, should have won is only further evidence of the firepower at hand.

In addition, Inzaghi was given plenty to think about by his rotation options and with a long season ahead it was crucial that the likes of Frattesi, Arnautovic, and Sanchez delivered.

Inter midfielder Davide Frattesi celebrates after scoring in the Champions League (@Inter)

Inter prove their credentials

After marching through Europe last season and pushing Manchester City close in the final, Inter are determined to go one better this year and their group stage form suggests they remain a force to be reckoned with on the continent.

A clash against Real Sociedad in Matchday 6 will decide who goes through as group winners and should they secure top spot, the Nerazzurri will take even greater confidence in being able to progress deep into the competition. After the thriller in Lisbon, the Biscione must be considered strong favourites when taking on La Real at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

Currently leading the way in Serie A, Inter have also established themselves as cup specialists under Inzaghi and there is potential for another memorable season.

Benfica midfielder Joao Mario celebrates after scoring (@slbenfica_en)

Joao Mario – what might have been

Benfica midfielder Joao Mario ran the show in the first half and strolled off at the interval with the match ball seemingly his after a wonderful hattrick. It was a sight that Inter fans had hoped to see for themselves, and might not have believed possible, after the Portuguese’s miserable time at the club.

Signed for a huge €40 million in 2016 as a statement by new owners Suning, Joao Mario never established himself at Inter and spent more time out on loan across the length and breadth of Europe than in Milan before joining Benfica in 2021.

Nevertheless, the 30-year-old is extremely talented and has matured upon his return to Portuguese football, with his trio of goals against his former club a sign that perhaps with better care and a less turbulent period around Inter, he could have made a success of his time in Serie A.

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